For decades, Americans have relied on Land’s End for three things:
- School uniforms.
- Warm winter apparel, especially their wind-resistant squall jackets.
- Women’s swimsuits you can swim in while your butt remains covered.
I speak from experience.
My son’s school uniforms from Land’s End were made of steel, unlike any of the other brands, to the point that the school had a hand-me-down program when your child outgrew them. Ponder that for a moment: Boys.Outgrowing.Active.Wear.
New Jersey winters aren’t as bad as some, but every so often we would get a couple of weeks of windy, bitter cold where the temperatures would not rise above 20F. I bought the Land’s End windproof, hooded, zipped-and-buttoned coat lined with down and Primaloft™, in black, that kept my arthritic bones toasty-warm.
I think they called it “the commuter’s storm coat” or something to that effect, but it was a wonderful thing. The sleeves had knit cuffs with adjustable bungees. The coat had zipped pockets for everything including your iPod/cell phone and train ticket. It was washable. It came in Women’s Tall, so it fit perfectly.
Of course I looked like I was zipped up in a walking sleeping bag with sleeves. Of course I loved it.
When I moved to Florida the coat was the first thing to sell at my garage sale. Some lucky girl will outlive the zombie apocalypse wearing it.
As for the women’s swimsuits, since I have no intention of becoming a tabloid celebrity, I prefer to keep my derriere covered, thankyouverymuch. Land’s End guarantees it, too.
Today I came across this bit of news: Land’s End has a new CEO named Federica Marchionni who is going to make the brand “fashion-forward.”
Are you nuts?
For starters, I lived in Italy for six weeks decades ago and literally could not find clothes my size. I am 5’9″ and back then wore an American size 6, but every thing (which only came in grey, white, or black) was not available in my size. At 130 lbs I was too big. So let’s hope FreddieM adjusts to the idea of American sizes.
Then there’s the competition: European brands are making strides in the U.S., most recently Zara. Now, I have bought at Zara and like the look, but would never go there for items 1, 2, or 3 above. A Zara swimsuit simply will not do.
FreddieM loathes the Land’s End look,
Marchionni is given to describing the company’s proudly fashion-backward line as “ugly” and asks in meetings, “Who would wear that?”
As it turns out, it was FreddieM who came up with the idea of placing Gloria Steinen in their catalog, because (I guess) being pro-abortion, in FreddieM’s mind, is not “ugly.” Bad, bad idea. I opened the catalog, saw Gloria’s photo, and placed it directly in the recycling bin.
So I agree with Kyle Smith, who states (emphasis added),
Marchionni fundamentally misunderstands the company, and maybe the republic for which it stands. Lands’ End is about America. It’s not for walking the runway, it’s for walking the dog. It isn’t for pickup bars, it’s for picking up the kids. It isn’t about the sizzle, it’s about the steak, or maybe even the Ball Park Frank. Lands’ End is small-d democratic: It is a declaration of independence sent to the fashion aristocrats and autocrats who would dictate terms to the citizens. We the people, not the editors of Vogue, will decide what we like to wear. By contrast, Marchionni seems to have a vision of fanciful high-cheekboned swells in a Fellini movie wearing Lands’ End jackets loosely draped over their shoulders while sipping Campari and plucking imaginary grapes out of the air as they speak, but the vision is not, to Lands’ End customers, aspirational. It’s insulting.
We, the Lands’ End people, do not want to look like dissipated Mediterranean cat burglars and femmes fatales. We don’t believe men should ever be seen in Capri pants, nor that stilettos are more useful than espadrilles. As for “boxy,” “boxy” is comfortable. “Boxy” is reassuring. “Boxy” is just fine. Lands’ End clothing does make a fashion statement, but the statement is this: Fashion is nonsense. Fashion is oppressive. Fashion is boring.
L.L. Bean and Columbia are probably sharpening their marketing knives.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S, and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.